Japan To Evacuate Citizens From Wuhan Over Coronavirus

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a speech in Tokyo on October 9, 2018.  AFP

 

Japan will evacuate all its nationals from China’s quarantined city of Wuhan, the epicenter of a deadly virus, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday.

“We have decided to send back all (Japanese citizens in Wuhan) to Japan if they wish so, by every means including a chartered flight,” Abe told reporters.

“We are coordinating with the Chinese government at various levels, and we will accelerate the process to realise a swift implementation” of the evacuation from Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province in central China, Abe said.

Earlier, a foreign ministry official told AFP that 430 Japanese were in Hubei province.

The move comes as several other countries are arranging plans to evacuate their personnel and citizens.

The outbreak, which has killed 56 people and infected nearly 2,000 across China, is believed to have originated in a live animal market in Wuhan.

China is one of Tokyo’s biggest trading partners and around 160 Japan-linked companies have offices in the region’s central city of Wuhan.

Japan’s health authorities confirmed the country’s third case on Saturday — all in patients that had visited Wuhan recently.

AFP

Turkey Publishes Images Of Alleged Ghosn Accomplices

This screen grab from handout video released on April 9, 2019 by representatives of former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn shows Ghosn preparing to speak at the beginning of a video message recorded on April 3 before his rearrest earlier this month in Tokyo.
Handout / Representatives for Carlos Ghosn / AFP

 

Turkey’s state news agency has published images of two men accused of helping fugitive businessman Carlos Ghosn escape via an Istanbul airport, as he fled a corruption trial in Japan. 

The security camera images, first made public on Thursday, show Michael Taylor and George Antoine Zayek at passport control in Istanbul Airport, according to state news agency Anadolu.

The Wall Street Journal described Taylor as a former US special forces operative now working as a private security contractor.

Ghosn, the former boss of carmaker Nissan, fled from Japan reportedly by hiding inside an audio equipment box, later giving a news conference in Lebanon.

He has refused to comment on the details of his escape.

Turkish police say he disembarked on foot at the smaller Ataturk Airport and transferred to another private jet for Lebanon.

Anadolu’s report suggests Taylor and Zayek accompanied Ghosn from Japan to Turkey, but then transferred across town to Istanbul’s main airport and took a separate flight to Beirut with Middle East Airlines.

Turkey has arrested five people as part of its investigation into the escape, including employees of MNG, the private jet firm used by Ghosn.

The firm says its aircraft were used illegally in the escape and has filed a criminal complaint.

AFP

Despite Goal Drought, 53-Year-Old Striker Renews Football Contract

Picture of a ball being kicked used to illustrate the story.
Picture of a ball being kicked used to illustrate the story.

 

Former Japan striker Kazuyoshi Miura, who turns 53 next month, has renewed his contract with Yokohama FC to extend his record as the world’s oldest professional footballer.

The veteran player, admiringly nicknamed “King Kazu” for his spirited onfield style, will kick off his 35th career season this year, the club announced over the weekend.

Miura, who has played for Yokohama FC since 2005, has said he won’t hang up his boots until he turns 60.

He played for the club three times last season but did not find the net.

In a short statement, he said he was concentrating on enjoying his football and keeping the club in the top league. “I’ll do my best to contribute to the team winning,” he said.

In 2017, Miura surpassed football’s previous professional longevity record and became the oldest player to score a competitive goal in a professional match. Both records were previously held by English legend Stanley Matthews.

Miura left Japan for Brazil in 1982 and signed a contract with Santos FC in 1986 to make his professional debut.

He made his Japan debut in 1990 and pushed for the country’s first-ever World Cup appearance in 1998 but failed to make the final squad for France, despite scoring 55 goals in 89 games for the national side.

He was one of the stars of the professional J-League at its 1993 launch before joining Italy’s Genoa on loan the following year.

Yokohama came second in the J-2 league last season, winning promotion to the top tier.

 

AFP

Tokyo Stocks Close Higher As Iran Worries Ease

People wait to cross a street in front of a stock indicator displaying share prices of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo on January 9, 2020. Behrouz MEHRI / AFP

 

Tokyo stocks closed higher on Friday, extending rallies on Wall Street as worries over US-Iran tensions receded while investors eyed US job data.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index gained 0.47 percent, or 110.70 points, to 23,850.57, While the broader Topix index was up 0.35 percent, or 6.11 points, at 1,735.16.

“The Japanese market reacted positively after US stocks ended at records,” Okasan Online Securities said in a commentary.

The gains marked a second straight session of advances on rising confidence that the US and Iran would avoid a conflict, following statements Wednesday by US President Donald Trump and Iranian officials.

Sentiment was further boosted by China’s announcement that Vice Premier Liu He will travel to Washington next week to sign the “phase one” deal with the United States, which has lowered trade tensions between the world’s two biggest economies, analysts said.

Traders also eyed on US job data expected to be released later Friday.

The dollar fetched 109.57 yen in Asian trade, against 109.51 yen in New York late Thursday.

In Tokyo, chip-making equipment manufacturer Tokyo Electron rose 1.44 percent to 24,840 yen and chip-testing equipment maker Advantest climbed 1.11 percent to 6,350 yen.

Some China-linked shares were higher, with industrial robot maker Fanuc gaining 2.35 percent to 20,670 yen and construction machine maker Komatsu advancing 1.21 percent to 2,616 yen.

Uniqlo chain operator Fast Retailing dropped 2.77 percent to 61,990 yen a day after it cut its full-year net profit forecast on sluggish sales in Asia owing to the Hong Kong protests and a boycott of Japanese products in South Korea.

Nigerian Passport Ranks 95th In The World

Passport

 

The latest report regarding the world’s most powerful International Passport places the Nigerian passport at 95.

According to the list put together by Henley Passport Index which occasionally curates a list of the world’s most travel-friendly passports, Nigeria is just above countries like Djibouti, South Sudan, and other war-torn countries in the middle-east.

In the recently published report, the Japanese passport is the most powerful in the world, as it avails those who possess it visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to about 191 destinations around the world.

The list also shows another Asian country – Singapore sitting in second place, with other European countries trailing right behind.

Travel Dilemma for Nigerians

Though the largest nation in Africa and often called the giant of the continent, Nigerians still do not have it easy while travelling internationally.

Those who possess a Nigerian passport often experience difficulties going through a plethora of checks, many have often described as dehumanizing the way they were treated at the airports of other nations.

READ ALSO: Top Ten Most Powerful Passports To Hold In 2020

Every year millions of Nigerians leave the country’s shores some for pleasure visits, others for medical tourism and a lot more in search of greener pastures.

However, these trips are not all palatable as the Nigerian passport only avails visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to only 41 countries, with many having to struggle and pay through their noses to visit the highly developed nation.

Terrorism and fraud culture

The weakness of the Nigerian passport and the way Nigerians are treated when they travel is not unconnected with the nation’s battle with terrorism, fraud and other crimes.

In December 2019, Nigeria was added to a United States ‘special watch list’ of countries that had engaged in or tolerated the severe violation of religious freedom.

Boko Haram and eight other terrorist groups were also described as ‘Entities of Particular Concern’.

This in no way puts the nation and those who bear its passport in a good light, hence, one can tell where the unpalatable treatment meted out to Nigerians when they travel, stems from.

In recent times, the name ‘Nigeria’ had become very synonymous with fraud.

US authorities in August 2019, announced charges against 80 people, most of them Nigerians, in a wide-ranging fraud and money laundering operation that netted millions of dollars from victims of internet con jobs.

Federal prosecutors unsealed the dozens of indictments after 17 people were arrested and taken into custody in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the United States.

Most of the remainder of those indicted were believed to be in Nigeria.

With such a reputation, one cannot expect that many nations will be more skeptical about their interactions with Nigerians and those with Nigerian passports.

The Government’s reaction

In an interview granted to the New Telegraph, President Buhari warned his fellow citizens to stop trying to make asylum claims in Britain, saying that their reputation for criminality has made it hard for them to be “accepted” abroad.

President Buhari said the number of Nigerians imprisoned for law-breaking in Britain and elsewhere, is the reason many are unlikely to get much sympathy.

Similarly, while addressing Nigerians in the Diaspora in Yokohama, Japan, Buhari said their actions should not reflect on the majority of Nigerians who are law-abiding.

He said there are few Nigerians in the Diaspora that are giving the country a bad name by engaging in criminal activities.

According to him, those Nigerians are a minority and do not represent the values of the country.

The President pleaded for those tarnishing the country’s name to change their ways, adding that his government will not condone any crime whether at home or abroad, and we will also not allow fraudulent Nigerians to define the nation as a people with reputation for criminality.

It is hoped that the fight against crime which is about the most important focus of the Buhari-led administration, will yield results which would see a turn in the value of the nation’s passport as well as a change in the way the world sees Nigerians.

Top Ten Most Powerful Passports To Hold In 2020

 

 

The most powerful passport to carry in 2020 is a Japanese passport. 

This is according to a list by the Henley Passport Index which occasionally curates a list of the world’s most travel-friendly passports.

In its first report for the new decade, Japan has the most powerful passport availing those who possess it visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to about 191 destinations around the world.

The list also shows another Asian country – Singapore sitting in second place, with other European countries trailing right behind.

Below are the top ten most powerful passports to hold in 2020, according to the Henley Passport Index.

1. Japan

2. Singapore

3. Germany/ South Korea

4. Finland/Italy

5. Denmark/Luxemburg and Spain

6. France/Sweden

7. Austria/Ireland/Netherlands/ Portugal/ Sweden

8. Belgium/Greece/Norway/United Kingdom/United States

9. Australia/Canada/Czech Republic/Malta/New Zealand

10. Hungary/Lithuana/Slovakia/

According to the list, Nigeria ranks 95 alongside Djibouti. The nation is just above countries like South Sudan, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Iran, Eritrea, Congo Democratic Republic, Bangladesh, and eleven other countries.

The Henley Passport Index ranks all the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa.

The ranking is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Oil Prices Spike Over 4.5% After Iran Attacks

 

 

Oil prices spiked Wednesday morning, rising over 4.5 percent at one point after Iran fired a barrage of ballistic missiles against two airbases in Iraq used by the US and coalition forces.

The benchmark WTI jumped as much as 4.53 percent to $65.54 a barrel before settling down slightly after Iran unleashed its first response to the US assassination of military commander Qasem Soleimani.


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Lawmaker Arrested In Japan Over Alleged Bribes

A file photo taken on Dec. 9, 2019 shows Japan Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto attending the Lower House plenary session in Tokyo. AFP

 

A Japanese lawmaker was arrested on suspicion of accepting bribes worth tens of thousands of dollars from a company that wanted to build a casino, Tokyo prosecutors said Wednesday.

Tsukasa Akimoto, a former member of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling party, received three million yen in cash in 2017 ($27,400 at the current rate), prosecutors said in a statement without identifying the company.

The arrest could put pressure on the Abe administration, which legalised casinos in 2018 despite bitter opposition.

Akimoto, who denied the allegations in a tweet, was the senior vice minister in charge of overseeing the government’s casino policy.

Prosecutors alleged he received the money “knowing the company provided it for the purpose of asking for favourable arrangements” for casino projects.

Prosecutors also arrested three employees of Chinese betting company 500.com, which allegedly bribed Akimoto, according to public broadcaster NHK.

Akimoto resigned from Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party after his arrest.

Prosecutors also alleged he was “invited on a trip to Hokkaido… and received the financial benefits worth around 700,000 yen including airfare and accommodation”.

Japan’s government has long pushed for the construction of mega-resorts that integrate casinos, entertainment venues, restaurants, hotels and conference facilities, similar to Las Vegas.

The policy’s supporters argue that casinos will boost the stagnant economy by bringing in tourists and business, similar to regional gambling hubs like Macau.

Japan is often viewed as the holy grail of gambling in Asia because of its wealthy population, proximity to the huge Chinese market, and an appetite for other forms of legal gambling such as horse racing and pachinko, a slot machine-style game.

But many activists are concerned about Japan’s well-documented gambling addiction issues.

AFP

China Hosts Leaders Of Japan, South Korea Over Looming North Korea Tension

 

 

China hosted the leaders of squabbling neighbours South Korea and Japan for their first official meeting in over a year on Tuesday, flexing its diplomatic muscle with America’s two key Asian allies and seeking unity on how to deal with a belligerent North Korea.

The gathering in the southwestern city of Chengdu was held with the clock ticking on a threatened “Christmas gift” from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that could reignite global tensions over its nuclear programme.

Kim has promised the unidentified “gift” — which analysts and American officials believe could be a provocative missile test — if the US does not make concessions in their nuclear talks by the end of the year.

The gathering also featured the first bilateral meeting between South Korea’s Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 15 months.

Ties between the two have hit rock bottom lately over trade issues and other disputes related to decades of bitter wrangling over Japan’s 1910-1945 occupation of the Korean peninsula.

The United States has urged the pair to bury the hatchet — worried their poor relations were complicating diplomacy in Asia — although it has held off on direct mediation.

China is appearing to fill that void with the Chengdu event.

“As the region’s major power, China hopes to show its diplomatic presence to the world by bringing the Japanese and South Korean leaders to the same table,” Haruko Satoh, professor and expert on Chinese politics at Osaka University, told AFP.

– ‘Severe’ situation –

Before leaving for China, Abe told reporters that links with Seoul remained “severe”.

But Abe and Moon were photographed smiling and shaking hands, and made positive overtures at the start of their bilateral meeting.

The relationship between Japan and both Koreas is overshadowed by the 35 years of brutal colonisation by the Japanese — including the use of sex slaves and forced labour — that is still bitterly resented today.

Ties began a downward spiral in recent months after a series of South Korean court rulings ordering Japanese firms to compensate wartime forced labour victims.

These infuriated Tokyo, who insisted the matter had been settled by a 1965 treaty between the two countries.

Seoul then threatened to withdraw from a key military intelligence-sharing pact, although it reversed course in November and agreed to extend it “conditionally”.

Abe said he hoped “to improve the important Japan-South Korea relations and to exchange candid opinions”, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

On Tuesday, Seoul’s presidential Blue House said Moon described the two countries as “the closest neighbours geographically, historically and culturally”.

But at a press conference after the bilateral, Abe said it was “South Korea’s responsibility” to resolve the issues.

“I urge the South Korean side to get the ball rolling to regain the soundness of Japan-South Korea relations,” he said.

– Reversed course –

After the meeting with China, both Japan and South Korea urged the resumption of talks between Pyongyang and Washington — which have been largely deadlocked since a second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un Kim in Hanoi collapsed at the start of this year.

The leaders of the three countries also promised to help promote dialogue to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons.

Also on Tuesday, North Korean state media slammed Tokyo as a “political dwarf”, saying its weapons tests “pose no threat” to Japan.

Still, if the North fired an intercontinental ballistic missile in defiance of UN sanctions, it would destroy Trump’s argument that he had succeeded in reducing risks from North Korea.

Former US national security adviser John Bolton, who was dismissed in September, on Monday criticised Trump’s strategy and warned the North posed an immediate threat.

“The risk to US forces & our allies is imminent & more effective policy is required before NK has the technology to threaten the American homeland,” tweeted Bolton.

‘Thankful For Life’: Japan Disaster Survivors Meet Pope

Pope Francis (front, R) greets a man, one of ten disaster victims during a meeting with the victims of triple disaster in Tokyo on November 25, 2019. Pope Francis called for renewed efforts to help victims of Japan’s 2011 “triple disaster” of earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima meltdown, noting “concern” in the country over the continued use of nuclear power. Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP

 

 

Survivors of Japan’s so-called “triple disaster”, the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown, told Pope Francis on Monday they were “thankful for being given life” and urged solidarity with victims.

Toshiko Kato was at her job as head of a Catholic kindergarten in Iwate region when the quake and tsunami hit on March 11, 2011. The massive waves that killed nearly 16,000 people caused enormous destruction, including sweeping away her home.

“That morning, I could not have known that the daily life I had known before I left the house would end, that in an instant many people would die,” she told Francis.

“I remember that when I stood in the rubble where my home had been, I was thankful for being given life, for being alive, and for just being able to appreciate it.”

And Kato said she felt she had “received much more than I lost.”

“Many people from all over the world opened their hearts and I was able to find hope from seeing people come together to help one another,” she said.

“Life is the most important thing, and no good life is lost.”

The human cost of the quake and tsunami was enormous — with 18,500 dead or missing. The meltdown itself killed no one, but more than 3,700 people who survived the triple disaster later died as a result of complications related to evacuations.

Nearly half a million people fled their homes in the first days after the quake and even today, roughly 50,000 remain in temporary housing.

‘I Wanted To Die’

Among those forced to evacuate was Matsuki Kamoshita, who was eight when the nuclear meltdown happened.

His father, a teacher, remained in Fukushima region to help his students, while Kamoshita and his three-year-old brother moved from place to place with their mother.

“My brother would burrow into his futon and cry. I was bullied… and every day was so painful I wanted to die,” he told Francis, speaking steadily before the crowd.

“Eventually, my father got mentally and physically ill and stopped working. Even so, I still think we are fortunate because we were able to evacuate.”

Japan’s government has been encouraging people who evacuated to return to areas that have now been declared safe after extensive decontamination.

But many fear their former homes are not really safe, and others are reluctant to return to what have in some cases become ghost towns, with few services, particularly for young families.

In his address to survivors, Francis called for renewed efforts to support the victims of the disaster.

“In this way, those who are suffering will be supported and know that they have not been forgotten,” he said.

“We cannot fully convey our suffering,” Kamoshita told Francis, who he hugged after delivering his remarks.

“Pray with us, Holy Father, that we can appreciate each other’s pain and love our neighbours. Pray that even in this cruel reality, we will be given the courage not to turn our eyes away.”

Pope Slams Nuclear Deterrent, ‘Unspeakable Horror’ Of Nagasaki

Pope Francis attends a ceremony at the Peace Memorial Park during his visit to the Japanese city of Hiroshima on November 24, 2019. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

Pope Francis Sunday railed against atomic weapons, the nuclear deterrent, and the growing arms trade, as he paid tribute to the victims of the “unspeakable horror” of the Nagasaki bomb.

In a highly symbolic visit to the Japanese city devastated by the nuclear attack in August 1945, Francis said nuclear weapons were “not the answer” to a desire for security, peace, and stability.

“Indeed they seem always to thwart it,” he said.

At least 74,000 people died from the atomic bomb unleashed on the city in western Japan — just three days after the world’s first nuclear attack hit Hiroshima and killed at least 140,000.

“This place makes us deeply aware of the pain and horror that we human beings are capable of inflicting upon one another,” said the sombre pontiff on the first full day of his Japan trip.

Hundreds of people in white waterproofs sat in torrential rain to hear the pope’s speech, next to the emblematic photo of a young boy carrying his dead baby brother on his back in the aftermath of the attack.

He laid a wreath of white flowers and prayed silently, unprotected from the lashing downpour.

‘Die like a human’

Francis took aim at what he called the “perverse dichotomy” of nuclear deterrence, saying that peace is incompatible with the “fear of mutual destruction or the threat of total annihilation.”

This marked a break with past pontiffs — in a 1982 UN speech, Pope John Paul II had described nuclear deterrence as a necessary evil.

The 82-year-old Francis also hit out at the “money that is squandered and the fortune made” in the arms trade, describing it as an “affront crying out to Heaven” in a world where “millions of children are living in inhumane conditions.”

Later Sunday, Francis will visit Hiroshima and meet survivors of the atomic attack, known in Japanese as hibakusha, at the world-famous Peace Memorial in the city synonymous with the horror of nuclear war.

Two survivors of Nagasaki, 89-year-old Shigemi Fukahori and 85-year-old Sakue Shimohira, handed the wreath to the pope.

Fukahori, a Catholic, has prayed every day for those killed and their bereaved families.

“My heart is just full of overflowing feelings,” he said. “Just meeting him is enough. I’m so glad and speechless.”

Shimohira, who was 10 at the time of the attack, conveyed the terror of the bomb.

“My mother and older sister were killed, charred. Even if you survived, you couldn’t live like a human or die like a human… It’s the horror of nuclear weapons,” she said.

At a Mass at a baseball stadium in Nagasaki with worshippers now shielding their eyes from the sun, Francis said the city “bears in its soul a wound difficult to heal” and warned that “a third World War is being waged piecemeal.”

‘Fondness and affection’

The Argentine pontiff is fulfilling a long-held ambition to preach in Japan — a country he wanted to visit as a young missionary.

“Ever since I was young I have felt a fondness and affection for these lands,” said Francis when he arrived in Japan.

Like in Thailand, the first leg of his Asian tour, Catholicism is a minority religion in Japan.

Most people follow a mix of Shinto and Buddhism, with only an estimated 440,000 Catholics in the country.

Christians in Japan suffered centuries of repression, being tortured to recant their faith, and Francis paid tribute to the martyrs who died for their religion.

Alongside its nuclear history, Nagasaki is also a key city in Christian history where so-called “Hidden Christians” were discovered after keeping the faith alive in secret for 200 years while Japan was closed to the world.

The pope said in Nagasaki that as a “young Jesuit from the ‘ends of the earth'” he had found “powerful inspiration in the story of the early missionaries and the Japanese martyrs.”

Francis returns to Tokyo on Sunday night where he will on Monday meet victims of Japan’s “triple disaster” — the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown.

He is also scheduled to deliver a Mass at a Tokyo baseball stadium, meet Japan’s new Emperor Naruhito and hold talks with Japanese government officials and local Catholic leaders.

Pope Francis Arrives In Japan To Preach Anti-Nuclear Message

 

Pope Francis arrived in Japan on Saturday, where he is expected to deliver a robust anti-nuclear message of peace in the only country to have suffered an atomic bomb attack.

The 82-year-old Argentine is fulfilling a long-cherished ambition to preach in Japan, where years ago he hoped to be a missionary.

He arrived in Tokyo in heavy rain and high winds, the white cape of his papal outfit blowing up around his face as he stepped gingerly down the staircase from the Thai Airways plane that carried him from the first stop of his tour in Thailand.

His four-day trip will begin with visits to Nagasaki and Hiroshima, cities forever associated with the nuclear bombs dropped on them at the end of World War II, killing at least 74,000 people and 140,000 people respectively.

In a video message to the Japanese people before he left the Vatican, Francis railed against the “immoral” use of nuclear weapons.

“Together with you, I pray that the destructive power of nuclear weapons will never be unleashed again in human history,” said the head of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics.

Francis arrives from Thailand, where he preached a message of religious tolerance and peace.

He is expected to do the same in Japan, a country with only approximately 440,000 Catholics out of a population of 126 million.

The majority of Japanese practise a mixture of Shinto and Buddhism, two closely intertwined faiths based on the worship of nature and spirits, but many in Japan also observe Christian festivals such as Christmas.

Christians endured centuries of bloody repression in Japan after the religion was introduced to the country by a Spanish Jesuit priest in 1549.

In the 17th century, Japan was closed to the outside world and Christians were persecuted, tortured, crucified and drowned as they were forced to recant their faith.

When Japan reopened to the world in the mid-19th century and the missionaries returned, they were astonished to find an estimated 60,000 who had secretly kept the faith alive and followed a unique version of Catholicism blended with Japanese culture and religious rites.

Francis is expected to pay tribute to these so-called “hidden Christians” — or “kakure kirishitan” in Japanese – during his trip on Sunday to Nagasaki, where they were discovered.

‘Can’t Forget The Bomb’

Francis will also visit Hiroshima and deliver remarks at the world-famous peace memorial that marks the day on August 6, 1945, when the atomic bomb was dropped.

Father Yoshio Kajiyama, director of the Jesuit social centre in Tokyo, was born in Hiroshima shortly after the war and is eagerly awaiting the pope’s anti-nuclear speech.

“My grandfather died the day of the bomb in Hiroshima, I never knew him. Four days later my aunt died when she was 15 years old,” said the 64-year-old.

“If you grow up in Hiroshima, you can’t forget the bomb.”

In Tokyo on Monday, Francis will met victims of the “triple disaster”, the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown in 2011 that devastated large swathes of north-eastern Japan.

His trip will also include meetings with the new Emperor Naruhito and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as well as delivering a mass in a Tokyo baseball stadium.

On the first leg of his latest Asian tour, Francis spent three nights in Buddhist-majority Thailand, another country where just a sliver of the population is Catholic.

He met with Thai King Vajiralongkorn and also sat down with the Buddhist Supreme Patriarch — the head of Thailand’s Buddhists — readily taking off his shoes during the visit to adhere to local customs.

His cousin Sister Ana Rosa, who has worked as a missionary in Thailand since 1966, was a near-constant presence by his side during the visit, serving as his interpreter.

In his final public address in Bangkok, the pontiff expressed gratitude to the small Catholic community for the warm welcome he received.

“I am leaving you with a task: do not forget to pray for me!”